When the robots are here

They already are.

‘The robots will make everything we need, except the thing we need most of: humanity.’* (Hugh Macleod)

As we try to make machines more human, Sherry Turkle notices through her research that:

‘long before we have devices that can pass any version of the Turing test, the test will become beside the point.  We will not care whether our machines are clever but whether they love’.**

The notion that a robot can learn emotion Turkle suggests is becoming conventional wisdom and offers this warning:

‘We have entered a realm in which conventional wisdom, always inadequate, is dangerously inadequate.  That it has become commonplace reveals our willingness to the the performance of emotions as emotion enough.’**

She objects to robotocist Rodney Brooks’ comparing of a robot’s computer code to the neurochemicals that produce human emotions because the “programming” happens in different ways for robot and human:

‘I tend to object to the relevance of a robot’s “numbers’ for thinking about emotion because of something that humans have that robots don’t: a human body and a human life.’ **

You are not a brain inside a body but a whole self.  You are not an individual in a crowd but a community.

We always must connect, engage.

We’re “programmed” through our interactions of our bodies within a multiplicity of environments, and these we interact with over many, many years.

Karen Armstrong writes about one of these environments and one of the extremely complex ability to forgive:

‘nearly every day there is something to forgive in the family’.^

From early years, we’re learning forgiveness, or not.  We know forgiveness is not simply a restoring of a relationship to a former state, or even a better one, as Anderson suggests:

‘Instead of seeing this as an irritant, we should see these tensions as opportunities for growth and transformation.’

Forgiveness often involves great imagination and I suspect beyond an algorithm.   One of the most human activities we can involve ourselves in, human imagination can send forgiveness bursting out in many directions:

‘Dazzling and tremendous, how quickly the sunrise would kill me, if I could not now and always send sunrise out of me.’^^

All the time we are trying to make machines more human, are we perhaps asking, How can we be human?

(*From gapingvoid’s Will you be outsourced or automated?)
(**From Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together.)
(^From Karen Anderson’s Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.)
(^^Walt Whitman, quoted in Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.)

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